consistent affection for his characters is what sets Tolstoy apart. Flaubert is equally 'objective, ' he says, but 'Flaubert's objectivity is charged with irritability and Tolstoy's with affection. For Flaubert everyone and everything is somehow at fault. For Tolstoy everyone and everything has a saving grace.' 'By loving people without cause, he discovered indubitable causes for loving them.' It would be hard to find a more succinct description of the chief work of the Holy Spirit in the human heart.
Life direct...is what Flaubert and Joyce have convinced themselves the man may never get quite clear of but the artist has nothing to do with. What they can't admit is that t is overrated: which artists, faking and fumbling it together out of spit and toothpicks, should know best of all.
'Flaubert's Parrot' is an amphibious book in which what appears to be a personal essay about Flaubertian writing is gradually, delicately transformed into an extremely sad novel in which the differences between character, author, and narrator are less clear than they appear at first glance.
Flaubert spoke true: to succeed a great artist must have both character and fanaticism and few in this country are willing to pay the price. Our writers have either no personality and therefore no style or a false personality and therefore a bad style; they mistake prejudice for energy and accept the sensation of material well-being as a system of thought.
The writers I care about most and never grow tired of are: Shakespeare, Swift, Fielding, Dickens, Charles Reade, Flaubert and, among modern writers, James Joyce, T. S. Eliot and D. H. Lawrence. But I believe the modern writer who has influenced me most is Somerset Maugham, whom I admire immensely for his power of telling a story straightforwardly and without frills.
In Madame Bovary Flaubert never allows anything to go on too long; he can suggest years of boredom in a paragraph, capture the essence of a character in a single conversational exchange, or show us the gulf between his soulful heroine and her dull-witted husband in a sentence (and one that, moreover, presages all Emma's later experience of men). (...) This is one of the summits of prose art, and not to know such a masterpiece is to live a diminished life.
Madame Bovary is one my favorite novels. Emma Bovary will always be an enigma, but as the years pass, I feel that I understand her better. She has a violent nostalgia, almost an infantile nostalgia, to be understood by the men surrounding her. I like her relentless fight for independence, her rebellion against the mediocre, and her quest for the sublime, even if she burns her wigs in the process. I like that Flaubert never judges her morally for her self-destructiveness, for her desperate attempt to satisfy her wildest desires and appetites.
I have often noticed that we are inclined to endow our friends with the stability of type that literary characters acquire in the reader's mind. No matter how many times we reopen 'King Lear, ' never shall we find the good king banging his tankard in high revelry, all woes forgotten, at a jolly reunion with all three daughters and their lapdogs. Never will Emma rally, revived by the sympathetic salts in Flaubert's father's timely tear. Whatever evolution this or that popular character has gone through between the book covers, his fate is fixed in our minds, and, similarly, we expect our friends to follow this or that logical and conventional pattern we have fixed for them.
When you start searching for 'pure elements' in literature you will find that literature has been created by the following classes of persons: Inventors. Men who found a new process, or whose extant work gives us the first known example of a process. The masters. Men who combined a number of such processes, and who used them as well as or better than the inventors. The diluters. Men who came after the first two kinds of writer, and couldn't do the job quite as well. Good writers without salient qualities. Men who are fortunate enough to be born when the literature of a given country is in good working order, or when some particular branch of writing is 'healthy'. For example, men who wrote sonnets in Dante's time, men who wrote short lyrics in Shakespeare's time or for several decades thereafter, or who wrote French novels and stories after Flaubert had shown them how. Writers of belles-lettres. That is, men who didn't really invent anything, but who specialized in some particular part of writing, who couldn't be considered as 'great men' or as authors who were trying to give a complete presentation of life, or of their epoch. The starters of crazes. Until the reader knows the first two categories he will never be able 'to see the wood for the trees'. He may know what he 'likes'. He may be a 'compleat book-lover', with a large library of beautifully printed books, bound in the most luxurious bindings, but he will never be able to sort out what he knows to estimate the value of one book in relation to others, and he will be more confused and even less able to make up his mind about a book where a new author is 'breaking with convention' than to form an opinion about a book eighty or a hundred years old. He will never understand why a specialist is annoyed with him for trotting out a second- or third-hand opinion about the merits of his favourite bad writer.
The lives of thousands of young Frenchmen were ready for this literary bath of blood and sentiment in the 1830's. Their fathers and grandfathers had had their romanticism in the raw: the drama of the French Revolution, the glamour of the Napoleonic campaigns in Europe and in Africa had filled their lives with colour; now the young people, listening with envy to reminiscence and tradition, knew they were living in a world that had become flat and dull. For the unshackling of the Revolution and the pageantry and devotion of the Empire had been succeeded by two colourless Bourbon kings, who had learned nothing from the times and were so stupid as to insist on absolutism without providing any splendour to justify it; and when their line was expelled in a minor revolution in 1830 they were replaced by their even more colourless cousin, Louis Philippe of Orleans, a constitutional monarch whose virtue was that he was more bourgeois than the bourgeois and whom the newspapers caricatured unendingly, strolling with his family past the shops he owned, carrying an umbrella under his arm. In placing him on the throne the French bourgeoisie consolidated the gains it had begun to make forty years before, and his prime minister gave the watchword of the day when he urged his fellow-citizens to make as much money as they possibly could. The French bourgeois - the revolutionaries of 1789, the conquerors of Europe under Napoleon - became rich, smug, tenacious, and fearful of change; and their children and grandchildren, the young men of Flaubert's generation, were raised in an atmosphere of careful, commercial materialism, of complete lack of interest in literature and the arts, and of complete distrust of impulse and imagination.
It happens that in our phase of civility, the novel is the central form of literary art. It lends itself to explanations borrowed from any intellectual system of the universe which seems at the time satisfactory. Its history is an attempt to evade the laws of what Scott called 'the land of fiction'-the stereotypes which ignore reality, and whose remoteness from it we identify as absurd. From Cervantes forward it has been, when it has satisfied us, the poetry which is 'capable, ' in the words of Ortega, 'of coping with present reality.' But it is a 'realistic poetry' and its theme is, bluntly, 'the collapse of the poetic' because it has to do with 'the barbarous, brutal, mute, meaningless reality of things.' It cannot work with the old hero, or with the old laws of the land of romance; moreover, such new laws and customs as it creates have themselves to be repeatedly broken under the demands of a changed and no less brutal reality. 'Reality has such a violent temper that it does not tolerate the ideal even when reality itself is idealized.' Nevertheless, the effort continues to be made. The extremest revolt against the customs or laws of fiction-the antinovels of Fielding or Jane Austen or Flaubert or Natalie Sarraute-creates its new laws, in their turn to be broken. Even when there is a profession of complete narrative anarchy, as in some of the works I discussed last week, or in a poem such as Paterson, which rejects as spurious whatever most of us understand as form, it seems that time will always reveal some congruence with a paradigm-provided always that there is in the work that necessary element of the customary which enables it to communicate at all. I shall not spend much time on matters so familiar to you. Whether, with Luke¡cs, you think of the novel as peculiarly the resolution of the problem of the individual in an open society-or as relating to that problem in respect of an utterly contingent world; or express this in terms of the modern French theorists and call its progress a necessary and 'unceasing movement from the known to the unknown'; or simply see the novel as resembling the other arts in that it cannot avoid creating new possibilities for its own future-however you put it, the history of the novel is the history of forms rejected or modified, by parody, manifesto, neglect, as absurd. Nowhere else, perhaps, are we so conscious of the dissidence between inherited forms and our own reality. There is at present some good discussion of the issue not only in French but in English. Here I have in mind Iris Murdoch, a writer whose persistent and radical thinking about the form has not as yet been fully reflected in her own fiction. She contrasts what she calls 'crystalline form' with narrative of the shapeless, quasi-documentary kind, rejecting the first as uncharacteristic of the novel because it does not contain free characters, and the second because it cannot satisfy that need of form which it is easier to assert than to describe; we are at least sure that it exists, and that it is not always illicit. Her argument is important and subtle, and this is not an attempt to restate it; it is enough to say that Miss Murdoch, as a novelist, finds much difficulty in resisting what she calls 'the consolations of form' and in that degree damages the 'opacity, ' as she calls it, of character. A novel has this (and more) in common with love, that it is, so to speak, delighted with its own inventions of character, but must respect their uniqueness and their freedom. It must do so without losing the formal qualities that make it a novel. But the truly imaginative novelist has an unshakable 'respect for the contingent'; without it he sinks into fantasy, which is a way of deforming reality. 'Since reality is incomplete, art must not be too afraid of incompleteness, ' says Miss Murdoch. We must not falsify it with patterns too neat, too inclusive; there must be dissonance.
76. David Hume - Treatise on Human Nature; Essays Moral and Political; An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding 77. Jean-Jacques Rousseau - On the Origin of Inequality; On the Political Economy; Emile - or, On Education, The Social Contract 78. Laurence Sterne - Tristram Shandy; A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy 79. Adam Smith - The Theory of Moral Sentiments; The Wealth of Nations 80. Immanuel Kant - Critique of Pure Reason; Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals; Critique of Practical Reason; The Science of Right; Critique of Judgment; Perpetual Peace 81. Edward Gibbon - The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; Autobiography 82. James Boswell - Journal; Life of Samuel Johnson, Ll.D. 83. Antoine Laurent Lavoisier - Traite e‰lementaire de Chimie (Elements of Chemistry) 84. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison - Federalist Papers 85. Jeremy Bentham - Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation; Theory of Fictions 86. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - Faust; Poetry and Truth 87. Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier - Analytical Theory of Heat 88. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel - Phenomenology of Spirit; Philosophy of Right; Lectures on the Philosophy of History 89. William Wordsworth - Poems 90. Samuel Taylor Coleridge - Poems; Biographia Literaria 91. Jane Austen - Pride and Prejudice; Emma 92. Carl von Clausewitz - On War 93. Stendhal - The Red and the Black; The Charterhouse of Parma; On Love 94. Lord Byron - Don Juan 95. Arthur Schopenhauer - Studies in Pessimism 96. Michael Faraday - Chemical History of a Candle; Experimental Researches in Electricity 97. Charles Lyell - Principles of Geology 98. Auguste Comte - The Positive Philosophy 99. Honore de Balzac - Pe¨re Goriot; Eugenie Grandet 100. Ralph Waldo Emerson - Representative Men; Essays; Journal 101. Nathaniel Hawthorne - The Scarlet Letter 102. Alexis de Tocqueville - Democracy in America 103. John Stuart Mill - A System of Logic; On Liberty; Representative Government; Utilitarianism; The Subjection of Women; Autobiography 104. Charles Darwin - The Origin of Species; The Descent of Man; Autobiography 105. Charles Dickens - Pickwick Papers; David Copperfield; Hard Times 106. Claude Bernard - Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine 107. Henry David Thoreau - Civil Disobedience; Walden 108. Karl Marx - Capital; Communist Manifesto 109. George Eliot - Adam Bede; Middlemarch 110. Herman Melville - Moby-Dick; Billy Budd 111. Fyodor Dostoevsky - Crime and Punishment; The Idiot; The Brothers Karamazov 112. Gustave Flaubert - Madame Bovary; Three Stories 113. Henrik Ibsen - Plays 114. Leo Tolstoy - War and Peace; Anna Karenina; What is Art?; Twenty-Three Tales 115. Mark Twain - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; The Mysterious Stranger 116. William James - The Principles of Psychology; The Varieties of Religious Experience; Pragmatism; Essays in Radical Empiricism 117. Henry James - The American; The Ambassadors 118. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche - Thus Spoke Zarathustra; Beyond Good and Evil; The Genealogy of Morals;The Will to Power 119. Jules Henri Poincare - Science and Hypothesis; Science and Method 120. Sigmund Freud - The Interpretation of Dreams; Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis; Civilization and Its Discontents; New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis 121. George Bernard Shaw - Plays and Prefaces
Mortimer J. Adler